Sunday, October 4, 2009
I love Toronto & I love my friends. I had a fabulous time last night at Nuit Blanche. I'm sorry not everyone felt up for the night of art on the town, but Reynardin and Gasolinequeen and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It is truly inspiring, not simply to experience all the art, but to see tens of thousands of people on the street, all night, engaging with culture. Negociating crowds can be aggravating, but we made Gasolinequeen's tongue-in-cheek traffic deflecting cry of, "Nuit Blanche to you too buddy!" a rallying call. I meant it when I said that it restores my faith in humanity. Not only do all the people care enough about art to wait in lines in the dark and mercifully-not-all-that-cold, but there is a feeling of comradery, that we were all in this (bizzare) evening together.
We began our night at Pho Hung on Spadina. Fuelled by Vietnamese coffee we set out for the Bus Terminal at Bay to see Battle Royal! I'm not sure Reynardin was initially convinced that the Bus Terminal was an ideal destination... but I kept saying there would be luchadors. When we got there, they were seeking volunteers. Gasolinequeen was surprised that I encouraged her, but it took little coaxing to get Reynardin blindfolded and into the wrestling cage, to experience vulnerability with the other blindfolded volunteers and one wrestler.
From there we attempted to see the immense piano wires strung across Massey Hall, but the line up was incredible. I hoped out of the car to go see Jeff Koons' giant, silver, inflatted rabbit, suspended in the Eaton Centre. I walked out through the crowds and across Nathan Phillips Square, where I could see the Beautiful Light: 4 Letter Word Machine. Venues were well selected (the cage in the middle of the bus terminal added to the humour, and was well-suited to crowds, the Rabbit loomed over the multiple levels of the Eaton Centre...) but this was uniquely well suited to the venue. Suspended across the empty space of the cupped hands of the wings of City Hall, the lighted digital display was mesmerizing. There were several sources of music of various sorts echoing, including one fabulous DJ by Queen St. (The second photo is clearer, but from much later in the night).
I re-joined my friends who had attempted to get into the Skry-Pod by FASTWÜRMS, but the line up for Tarot readings was over an hour. So we passed by the Wasted Breath alleyway of inflatted garbage bags instead. I thought they should be pulsating like living organisms.
Next we headed north to St. Thomas church on Huron to see Through a Glass Darkly- clearly this a church run with an openness to ideas and a healthy sense of humour. The first thing you notice are four pieces of toast affixed to pillars with faces, like the claimed miracles one might find on EBay. Except these toast didn't show religious figures.
Yes, it is Tim Allen as Santa Claus on toast. Further his tiny portrait was painted on the ceiling, visible only via telescopes stationed near the doors, for this purpose.
Stars were projected on the ceiling (not fully captured by the photograph, due to the flash), paintings of planets adorned the wall. By the altar, was a slide show about astronomy. In the south transcept, there were paintings on wood, like a wunderkammer combining micropic images of pollen, with asteroids and things on entirely another scale. In the north transcept was a couple of holograms, showing galaxies and neurons. I wish I had realized that this show was to celebrate Galileo! But it was delightful. In the Parish hall, we were given 3D glasses to watch films projected on the ceiling. I found this a bit bit dizzying, with patterns in black and white showing shapes reminescent of gravitational wells and the bending of space-time in the presence of matter. So I bought a brownie from one of the volunteers.
Then, we headed uphill towards Casa Loma. We were directed to the Stables - a lovely building, I don't recall ever previously visiting.* Luckily, through no planning on our part, we made it just in time to catch the end of the marvellously wacky dance performance Le Grand Peep Show by CORPUS. Reynardin offered me a boost, and from a higher height I was able to provide some narration of the comedic-sexy dance of two figures in peculiar PVC suits.
Then we walked to the stately Spadina House, and entered the magical double helix of forest painted on translucent suspended sheets. The effect was quite something. We found the artist in the centre; she urged us to sign her guest book. While there we also saw some photography, painting and more sculpture in the garden.
We stopped to look at the nest and Reynardin offered to allow the people behind us to "Get a head." We love her despite her fondness for excruciating puns.
Next, we headed to the Wynchwood Barns artist studios. Outside were the great wire bee sculptures in the lit garden. The shadows were wonderful. There were paintings of vegetables by a local grade 3 class. There were copper wire sculptures. I got two trading cards for bees. There were also some interesing films projected on an exterior wall, including two side-by-side showing a woman dancing energertically in a small apartment played at double speed, with a soundtrack of be-bop. Inside, there was one artshow with great nature photography, film about revolutionaries, along with a beautiful opera and dance performance. The dancers had incredible multicolour costumes, and one of them sang in a pure soprano voice, echoing a recording of herself. From the ceiling were vibrantly painted shapes suspended. The 'stage' was surrounded by tiny figurines and bonsai trees on posts. It was a wonderfully ecclectic combination. I loved seeing dance and hearing music encorporated with the visual arts.
Then we headed out to the west end, since I was convinced Liberty Village was worth a visit. I'm glad that Reynardin has a habit of humouring her friends.
Stopping for re-freshments (cookies) at the Metro grocery store, we were accidentally witness to the projection of a plane on the ceiling along with the loud recording of jet engines, called Invade, a surprisingly effective installation. We wandered by the Fire and Sausage post-apocalytic hobo utopia, where Reynardin lined up for fire roasted sausage by Jamie Kennedy (I guess cuisine is art too) and Gasolinequeen and I waited for our blankets labelled "MERCY" which served us well. As it was 2 am, by then it was getting a bit cold. R. had a conversation with a man whose face was painted red with a black eyemask, and neglected to ask why his face was painted. Take Shelter combined gathering non-perishable donations with interactive participatory sculpture. We passed by the BICITYCLE installation. We also saw some of the pulsating search lights and joked they were sending Morse code instructions about the lengths of lineups. They humoured me by waiting for the surprise highlight of the evening, A Sultry World. It was not clear my a woman in a scarlet tent dress, under which the audience could crawl was worth the wait, but we were glad we did.
We were asked to remove our shoes. So I crawled under the velvet carrying my shoes, box of cookies and with my MERCY blanket around my neck - that was not well-planned. But the experience was unique and worth the effort. Crawling under all that red velvet was disorienting. I ran into appologizing fellow-viewers. We slowly made it towards the centre. The artist, Norico Sunayama, was perched atop a 3 m conical stool. R. had joked about whether we would see what was under the dress, but in fact that was nclearly part of the message. Inside the cone, were pink cushions, a large number of guestbooks an a strong heady scent. Her artist's statement was about skunks, and how the woman having no means to protect herself wants to use scent. It was indeed a sultry world. But the most special thing was the mood- it was respectful and almost reverential. It was amazing: strangers, men and women, kneeling silently, under her skirt, able to look up and see her thighs (and R. reports, blue-pin-striped undies). People were sketching what they saw or writing in her guest books. There was a feeling of complicity. Psychologically, I suppose it was like crawling back into the womb - the one thing we all share as humans - and it was amazing to feel that the viewers were respectful and thankful towards the artist for being vulnerable and allowing this, and the sense of solidarity.
The Lost and Found Forest was less intriguing, but I liked the texture of the nail and string trees withing the shipping container.
Likewise, by merely repeating the suspended bamboo sticks and clever lighting, twofold made for a clever sculptural installation. We also enjoyed the performer juggling fire.
We dropped Gasolinequeen at home (who at 3 am, decided that work today was looming) and made a second attempt to see the Skry-Pod by FASTWÜRMS. Sadly there was still an hour line up. So we found the Ghost Chorus - Dirge for Dead Slang. The music at 3 am at Nathan Phillips was very very eery.
Then we headed south to see the Witches' Craddles. They looked spectacular suspended from the cathedral ceilings of the BCE Place atrium, but what with Reynardin guarding the car, the warnings against volunteering to be suspended in this modern-medieval sensory-deprivation pod if, amongst other ailments, one had knee problems like I do, and the line, I decided to call it a night. Reynardin and I made it back to the west end by 3:38 am, after a very magical Nuit Blanche.
Thank you very much for such a great experience my friends!
*We plan to return for the Ninja Combat workshop!